Wilbraham resident will run around the clock for mental health awareness

WILBRAHAM — At 9 a.m. on April 23, Wilbraham resident Bill Wells will leave Wilbraham United Church and start running, and he won’t stop until 9 a.m. the next morning. Wells challenges herself in this ongoing race to raise money and awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.

“Yes [COVID-19] did anything, it exposed how fragile people’s mental health can be and if we don’t step in and address it, it can become a very dangerous thing,” Wells said of the fundraising reasons.

Donations of any amount are collected, both at the run and at www.mhainc.org/donate. All donations will go to Mental Health Associates of the Bestlife Center for Emotional Health and Wellness in Springfield.

Wells is a lifelong endurance runner, but before this event he trained with increasingly longer runs. He completed four marathons of 26.2 miles each, two 50Ks (31 miles) and races of 40 miles, 43 miles, 54 miles and 62 miles – one 100K, which lasted 11 hours.

“I have to be very slow at the start. I’m going to hit the wall at some point and the slower I go the longer it will take for my quads to explode,” Wells said. He’s not afraid to do permanent damage, though. “I’m smart enough to stop when I’m injured,” Wells said, adding that he fuels his body throughout the long runs.

In March 2020, Wells attempted a 24-hour run to raise money and awareness of Rick’s Place, a nonprofit child and family bereavement center. An injury forced him to end his run after 20.5 hours.

“Even though I didn’t finish it, I still consider it a success” because it raised more than $5,000 for the charity, he said. He has the same mindset before this event. “At the end of the day, if we raise funds for mental health awareness, it will be a success.”
While the 2020 race route was a one-mile loop around Post Office Park, this route will take Wells back and forth along a half-mile stretch of Main Street, starting in Wilbraham United Church. The short course will allow Wells’ race to be more visible and his family will be able to gather in one place to support him.

Wells encourages people to run the event stages with him. Participants will receive a green ribbon (the official color of mental health awareness) and can choose to walk or run the course.

He will also encourage everyone to commit to “having a mental health discussion with their family within 24 hours”.

Wells explained, “It’s time to address how mental health is perceived in our country and around the world. Just as every person needs to take care of their physical health, every person needs to take care of their mental health. It’s time to start talking about mental health.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the 10-34 age group and the 10th leading cause of death overall.

In 2019, the suicide rate for men was 3.7 times higher (22.4 people per 100,000) than for women (6 people per 100,000).

Nearly one in five American adults lives with a mental illness – 52.9 million people in 2020.

“We have four generations in my family of people who suffer from mental health issues, including me,” Wells said, sharing that he was diagnosed with a mild form of depression. “Just like someone would talk about cancer or dementia, talking about mental health needs to be normalized. We’re not there yet, but we have to get there.”

If you are in crisis, call the confidential, toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Learn more about suicide prevention , visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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